Outstanding Graduates Biology
Madeleine (“Maddi”) Berthoud '20 has distinguished herself academically by performing at the top of the class across her major and non-major classes. But three things stand out as going deeper than the numbers. First she pursues and consistently attains excellence, but seems driven not by anxious ambition but by sheer love of the task whether in the classroom or on the soccer field. Second, she is simultaneously eager to ask probing questions across the disciplines, while also being free to share her own convictions and listen attentively to others. Third, Maddi is a weaver, entangling the threads of her experience – in the classroom, on the soccer field, in ministry – into a fabric of faith-informed service to others. Maddi has demonstrated you don’t have to do just one thing well and has been an inspiring model of the scholar / athlete.
At Westmont, Lucia Combrink '19 has co-authored several research projects, ran for the women’s cross country team and served as a resident assistant in Clark Halls. She and professor Amanda Sparkman worked with researchers from Iowa State and Penn State Universities to co-author a paper, “Current and Time-Lagged Effects of Climate on Innate Immunity in Two Sympatric Snake Species.” Their work used two species of garter snakes from four populations in Northern California to examine how they adapted to changing environmental conditions, such as drought.
She also co-authored a paper, “Convergence in reduced body size, head size, and blood glucose in three island reptiles,” with Sparkman. “In the field, if there is an elusive animal everyone else has overlooked, she is the one to find it,” Sparkman says.
Combrink, an international student from Malaysia, graduates with bachelor’s degrees in biology and psychology. She conducted research, “Examining the Effect of Implicit Religious Priming on Pro-Environmental Behavior,” with Brenda Smith, professor of psychology.
“In everything she does, she is cheerful, engaged, generous and faithful,” says Beth Horvath chair of the biology department. “She has shown herself more than equal to graduate-level work in her Major Honors project, and is clearly poised for graduate school as the next phase in her career.”
Lilly Brummett '18 has been involved in two different research projects while at Westmont, studying the evolution of dwarfism in reptiles on the Channel Islands and comparing populations of garter snake in Northern California. She worked as a lab assistant for four years, served as president of the Multi-Ethnic Student Association for two years, and studied in New Zealand with the Creation Care Studies Program. She plans on pursuing a master’s degree and eventually a doctorate in marine biology. “I’ve had so many great experiences at Westmont,” she says. “I hope to continue to do research for as long as I’m able.”
Rachel Black '17 is someone whose mind has such clarity that she brings everything—from cellular physiology to evolutionary processes—into greater focus for those around her. She is able (almost effortlessly it seems) to articulate questions others may not even know they are asking, getting right to the heart of the matter, and leading her classroom community to deeper understanding. And she does so with a professional, no-nonsense, and good-natured manner that is charming to professors and students alike. Her professors might wish to have her grace every class, in perpetuity! But we are also delighted to send her out to find new communities to inspire. Rachel is at home in theoretical, empirical, and ethical worlds of inquiry in a way that makes us confident she will excel and flourish in any field she chooses to pursue.
Aaron Wilk’s ('16) effect on the Biology Department will linger long after he moves on to a career in medicine and science. He has gifted us with the highest caliber of intellectual ability and productivity, and an infectious enthusiasm for biology that spans multiple areas of inquiry. He can talk about the complexities of a biological mechanism with the sophistication of someone who has studied the discipline for years, while collecting, analyzing, and reporting on original data for his major honors project with a similar scholarly ability and enthusiasm. Stanford University is about to welcome a M.D./Ph.D. student of uncommon talent and promise, but also one with a humble and generous spirit who invites those around him to enjoy science, and music, and kiteboarding, and life, as much as he does.
The Biology Department is pleased to honor Olga Lane '15 with the Outstanding Senior Award. Not only has Olga embraced her training as a biologist with a vigor that underscores her academic talent, but she has done so with an infectious joy that inspires her peers and professors. From an insightful comment during class to service in the department as both a teaching assistant and laboratory helper, Olga’s contributions have made the Biology Department a more rigorous, yet inviting and fun, place to learn. We celebrate Olga’s outstanding academic achievements which will serve her well as she pursues a career in medicine. As importantly, we are thankful for her lasting impact in our department that will serve as a model for others to joyfully embrace the discipline of biology.
Ben West '15 has been a delight to have in the Biology department. His work is consistently of the highest caliber: thorough, detailed, and logically presented. He excels in understanding complex material and can skillfully and creatively use resources to solve problems. While he will not be the most talkative student in a discussion, his contributions are weighty and insightful, always getting to the heart of the matter. Whether in lecture, the laboratory, or out in the field catching snakes, Ben is a valuable, hardworking team member. To match his keen intellect, Ben also has a deep love of God and true heart of a servant, reaching out to those in need both locally and internationally. He will represent Westmont well as he goes off to medical school in August!